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10 June 2021

Lengths of NBC Olympics’ Tokyo groundwork revealed – Telestream scores

With major live sporting events gearing up for summer 2021 and beyond, the floodgates have swung open for technology deployment opportunities.

We have the European Championship soccer tournament kicking off this week, coinciding with the Copa America equivalent in Latin America, while the strongly anticipated Tokyo Olympics is taking place from July 23 to August 8. With Tokyo’s technologically advanced reputation, this year’s Olympics is expected to set a new bar for TV production and delivery, a year after the summer sporting extravaganza was due to take place.

To support this effort, NBC Olympics – part of NBC Sports Group – has gone big this week by allowing numerous vendors to pull their press release triggers simultaneously. These include Telestream, providing media capture and automated processing workflows for NBC’s Olympic Games production, with involvement from video editing pioneer Avid. In the same breath, MediaKind has also been recruited by NBC Olympics for encoding of the forthcoming games, as well as Signiant for intelligent file transfer software, Amagi for cloud playout, TAG Video Systems for OTT monitoring and multiviewing, and Sony Electronics for broadcast and production camera equipment.

There are some big broadcast industry names here, but the Telestream deployment strikes us as the most significant technological feat of the bunch. The US vendor is supplying its flagship Vantage media processing platform and Lightspeed Live Capture technology to enable NBC Olympics’ editing teams to work in both SDR and HDR simultaneously – saving considerable time in the production process.

HDR to SDR conversion will be carried out using a new advanced color processing pipeline within the Vantage software suite using color processing Look Up Table filters that translate HDR (the Hybrid Log Gamma format) to SDR. This is important because the HLG version of HDR was created by Japanese broadcaster NHK together with the BBC – both of which deliver content to millions of TV sets with only SDR support and still expect the majority of Olympics 2021 content to be consumed in SDR despite the growing prevalence of HDR TV sets.

So, instead of having to create and deliver two separate SDR and HDR broadcasts, the two are intertwined in a single signal so that HDR-enabled TV sets can still display enhanced images.

Telestream’s Vantage product provides frame chase editing capabilities of both HDR and SDR, then feeds assets into Avid’s Interplay editing platform from where Avid operators can edit live files on the fly as they are being recorded.

While creating this dual-path HDR/SDR production workflow has come with an enormous amount of complexity, according to the parties involved, NBC Olympics hasn’t stopped there. The US broadcaster has also deployed Telestream’s complete suite of UHD/4K Waveform Monitors from Telstream’s Tektronix Video product family (Tektronix was merged into Telestream in 2019), as well as its Sentry OTT monitoring technology to test the quality of video and audio content in NBC Olympics’ production, post-production, transmission, and distribution workflows.

It’s unclear how Telestream’s OTT monitoring system will overlap or interoperate with TAG Video Systems’ own OTT monitoring products, although we understand TAG’s technology is focused on monitoring MPEG transport streams originating in Tokyo, which are then logged, categorized and archived in NBC Sports’ International Broadcaster Center. TAG’s systems run on COTS servers and allow NBC Olympics to view metrics and evaluate the health of signals at each step.

This major NBC Olympics deal, involving multiple contracts, is an additional cherry on the cake to celebrate a transformational year for Telestream, as reported on by Faultline following our attendance at a recent Telestream press conference in which we covered the company’s three recent acquisitions, as well as the release of its breakthrough Cloud Transform product. Telestream described Cloud Transform as its most significant technological release since its Vantage suite burst onto the scene, although there is no sign of Cloud Transform at NBC Olympics, yet.

But the beauty of Cloud Transform, Telestream’s new full SaaS media processing and transcoding service, is that existing Telestream customers can easily access a route into cloud-based media processing and transcoding, one which evolves as standards and technologies do.

Meanwhile, MediaKind is delivering equipment including video processing, encoding and advanced modular receivers for high quality satellite video distribution. On-site MediaKind engineers will support NBC Olympics 24/7 throughout the event, continuing the relationship from the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea.

Circling back to Signiant, also winning a deal at NBC Olympics this week, the company is contributing technology that enables NBC Olympics to shift huge volumes of data – petabytes worth – from Tokyo back to its Stanford, Connecticut-based broadcast center. Signiant says its network optimization technology seamlessly transfers files over standard IP networks, eliminating latency and packet loss so that editors back on US soil can create highlights almost immediately as the action is happening. Presumably, Signiant supports a range of low latency transfer protocols including Secure Reliable Transport (SRT) and Reliable Internet Stream Transport (RIST), although the press release does not specify which of these NBC Olympics will be using.

Signiant has only appeared twice in Faultline’s archive – once during an IBC stand visit way back in 2007 and then 13 years later when the company filed what we saw as a potentially significant patent for the invention of “cloud-based authority to enhance point-to-point data transfer with machine learning.” This pertains to establishing the fastest method for moving or accessing media files, where ML techniques incorporate historical data to build a prediction model for Signiant’s intelligent transport software to select the optimal number of parallel transport streams and select either standard TCP or Signiant’s proprietary UDP-based acceleration protocol. Inputs include current and historical network conditions, available compute, storage type and data set characteristics.